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Brian Lo and Martin Li

Wholesale marketplace bridges Asian retailers to global independent brands

Markato has over 200 brands from markets like Europe, the United States, and Australia.

Retailers and businesses used to rely on local and international trade shows to source new suppliers of goods and items and go through lengthy negotiations. Recognising the expenses and time associated with this approach, two entrepreneurs from Hong Kong developed Markato, a wholesale marketplace where items from independent brands worldwide can easily be accessed and bought at wholesale prices.

Through Markato, retailers and buyers in Hong Kong can access over 200 brands and close to 5,000 unique products from markets like Europe, the United States, and Australia.  

Brands in the platform fall under the home lifestyle, beauty and wellness, and accessories categories.

“What we are doing is basically a one-stop shop for retailers and buyers to be able to discover different brands. They can simply add items to cart and check out,” Martin Li, co-founder of Markato, told Hong Kong Business.

Li, together with his co-founder Brian Lo, also streamlined the process for logistics and payments, which have been barriers to cross-border retail transactions.

“We built a logistics infrastructure that’s able to support interaction between retailers and brands in a seamless way. Also, when the retailer pays us, we are able to very quickly and accurately convert that to the right currency and pay the brands on time,” Li shared.

Describing their buyer pool, Li said Markato has a mix of retailers who are interested in new brands and products to stock in their shops and businesses buying to use like hotels, gyms, and restaurants.

Pathway to Asia, gateway to the world

As much as the platform works as a gateway for Asian retailers and buyers to access global brands, Markato also serves as a pathway for global brands seeking to establish their presence in Asia.

“I think there’s a lot of high-quality brands from different places in the world that are trying to break into Asia. But because of different languages, different kinds of duties, and import restrictions, it’s almost impossible for them to solve these problems. They don’t have the resources to do that,” Li said.

“[Markato] is a one-stop shop for them to be able to sell to Asian retailers as easily as if they were selling it locally to customers in their home country,” Li added.

Apart from giving global brands a platform to establish their presence in Asia, Li said he and Lo built Markato to make the wholesale experience less expensive.

“When we buy something in Hong Kong, a lot of times, it costs a lot more than it costs in Europe or the United States when we buy from there. We always ask ourselves why? It was through, I think, a lot of different experiences that we realised that the traditional wholesale experience is what really makes it expensive,” Li added.

By using Markato, retailers can save roughly 20% off wholesale transactions and logistics costs.

Ultimately, Li said he wants Markato to be a market where buyers and sellers meet.

“Markato is a Greek word for markets and this is very reflective of the business we’re building. But I think, more importantly, when [retailers, buyers, and brands] meet in this market, we don’t only want them to only meet, we want them to benefit from the connection. We want to help them establish a long-term connection and grow their business,” Li said.

Entry to Singapore

The marketplace, which is currently only available to retailers and buyers in Hong Kong, will soon be launched in Singapore.

Markato’s entry to Singapore is amongst the initiatives that the duo will be taking on using their fresh funds.

In 2Q23, the startup raised US$5m in a seed funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Li said he also plans to hire more people to boost their engineering, logistics, and merchandising teams to improve their platform.

“We will make sure that retailers have the most savings and most access to brands worldwide, whilst giving brands access to vast retail opportunities in the Asian market,” Li said.

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